Catillaz, Hoffman, Pelletieri vie for trustee posts
SARANAC LAKE – Two incumbents and one newcomer to village politics are vying for a pair of trustee seats in Tuesday’s village election.
Tom Catillaz, a former village mayor, is seeking his second four-year trustee term. His name will be on the Democratic and independent “Saranac Lake’s Future” party lines.
Allie Pelletieri, who made his first foray into village politics four years ago, is seeking re-election. He’ll be under the Conservative, Democratic and Republican party banners.
Gary Hoffman, a former Wilmington town justice, is running on the Republican Party line.
Polls are open from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the Harrietstown Town Hall auditorium.
The candidates are presented below in alphabetical order by last name.
Catillaz said his experience in village government is his biggest asset as a trustee. He’s been on the board, as trustee and mayor, from January 1998 to 2007 and 2011 to now.
“I have a lot of knowledge about what’s happened before, and I’m looking out for where we’re going, too,” he said. “There’s a positive attitude in town, and it’s growing. I like being part of that and hope to continue that a little longer.”
Asked to compare the last four years to his seven-year tenure as mayor, from 2000 to 2007, Catillaz said his running mate, Mayor Clyde Rabideau, has “brought an enormous amount of new and good ideas, and he knows how to back them up.
“If you go back four six years, the (board) meetings were two and three hours long and there was a lot of bickering, fighting and not getting a lot done. Things didn’t happen before like they’re happening now, and I attribute that to (Rabideau).”
The board’s biggest accomplishment over the last four years, Catillaz said, was bringing two Lake Placid biotechnology companies to a pair of village buildings on Main Street.
“I think more than 40 people, at the two combined, work there now,” he said. “Some of those people have moved to Saranac Lake. They have to eat lunch. They do shopping here. The spinoff is the stores prosper downtown. These people are out and about in the community.”
Catillaz said the state-funded $35 million biotech partnership between Trudeau Institute and Clarkson University “could be one of the biggest things that happens in the future.”
He also said the two pending hotel projects, Roedel Companies’ plan to revitalize the Hotel Saranac and the proposed 90-room, four-story hotel on Lake Flower, have the potential to provide a major stimulus to the village economy. The size and scale of the Lake Flower hotel has generated some concerns in the community. Catillaz said he drove around the village when balloons were floated above the site to simulate the building’s height, “and I didn’t think it was overly big.
“If you drive out Lake Flower Avenue, there’s no view of the water there now and across the street there’s not many residential places, so I don’t think it will block the view. But all we’ve seen is a drawing so far. They still have a long way to go on this, and I don’t think people should bury them yet.”
If he’s re-elected, Catillaz said he hopes to see a string of infrastructure projects through to completion, including work this year on Lake Flower Avenue and Broadway. He also wants the village to continue to play a role in putting on events like the Saranac Lake 6er program and the Walk of Fame.
He thinks the village may have to reduce services or eliminate positions this year to keep it’s budget under the state’s property tax cap.
“With the prices going up on absolutely everything, you have to make some sacrifices along the way,” he said. “Nobody likes to (cut personnel), but you have to look at things. We’re looking at everything that’s in our budget. We’re set on staying within the 2 percent increase or less.”
Originally from the Buffalo area, Hoffman moved to Wilmington in 1988. He worked for Agway Energy Products in Saranac Lake then became a contract hauler for Agway, running his own trucking company, Gary Hoffman Enterprises Inc. Now retired, he said he decided move to the village two years and quickly became enamored with the community.
“I moved here basically for the arts and music atmosphere, because I’m a musician, and I discovered what a great community it is,” he said. “I thought by running for this position I could give back to the community.”
A guitarist and singer, Hoffman plays regularly at the Rusty Nail in Saranac Lake and Delta Blue in Lake Placid.
Before he came to Saranac Lake, Hoffman served two terms as a Wilmington justice. He said he helped to modernize and upgrade the town’s courtroom using grant funds.
While this is his first run for office in this village, Hoffman said he was very active, as a citizen, in Wilmington town government and understands how it works.
“There is going to be a learning curve, absolutely, but it didn’t take me that long to learn how to be a judge,” he said.
Asked what his priorities would be, if elected, Hoffman said he wants to keep taxes down, explore more shared services with other governments and keep a watchful, long-term eye on the village’s upcoming infrastructure projects and needs.
“That’s going to be a lot of money going a lot of places,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that are going to happen in the years ahead, and I think looking farther ahead is the way to do it.”
Hoffman hasn’t been to any village board meetings, but he has read through meeting minutes and the village budget.
“There may be some areas (of the budget) that should be really looked at more closely,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of overtime in the police department. That should be looked at, because it’s my understanding they’d like more officers. Maybe that’s a way to keep the overtime down.”
Hoffman credited Pelletieri for raising questions about various projects and initiatives. He said he wants to be there to back him up.
“I’m that kind of person, as well,” Hoffman said. “I ask why. I want to analyze things and look at the options, not just take someone’s word for it when I vote. I want to be really proactive. Rather than just watching the wheels move, I want to help them move and direct them.”
Asked about the Lake Flower hotel project, Hoffman said it hasn’t moved far enough through the planning process for him to weigh in on it, although he said the community needs the additional hotel rooms.
Pelletieri described his first term in public office as an eye-opener.
“I didn’t expect it to be this much work,” he said. “There’s a lot that goes into every decision. You have to figure out what the confines of the law are, what your citizens want, what the village can afford, and there’s a lot of outside influences and other agencies. It’s the speed. Most things take a lot longer than you had hoped.”
Asked what the village has accomplished during his tenure, Pelletieri said hiring a village manager, John Sweeney, who was familiar with village workers, infrastructure and the community was one of the board’s best moves.
Pelletieri also named completing a state-mandated water project, although he didn’t support the switch to a well-based water system, and a much-needed upgrade of the village’s sidewalks as achievements over the last four years.
“If you go around the whole village, you see things being done,” he said. “There’s a nucleus now down at the village office with (Community Development Director) Jeremy (Evans), John (Sweeney) and (Treasurer) Paul (Ellis) that really communicate well and work together. Projects are being done in a manner that we fund and budget them.”
While village tax levy increase has been kept under the state’s tax cap, water and sewer rates have gone up substantially in the last few years. Pelletieri said that’s largely due to the water project. He says the goal for the village is to keep taxes down and “level off” those utility rates.
Asked about the Lake Flower hotel project, Pelletieri said he’d “like to see it a little smaller,” but he also said he understands that 90 rooms and four stories is what the developer needs to make the project an economic reality. He said he wants to make sure the final plan for the hotel is “done in satisfaction of the majority of the people.”
Pelletieri said the current village board has worked as a team and set aside any personal or political differences. He credited Rabideau for moving the village in the right direction, calling him a “true leader.”
During most village board meetings, Pelletieri typically asks more questions about agenda items or other village business than his colleagues. He said Rabideau “likes board meetings to go bam, bam, bam” in an orderly and efficient fashion, but Pelletieri admitted he “wouldn’t mind a little more discussion” of issues at the board table.
Pelletieri said continuing infrastructure improvements, looking for ways to consolidate, creating more jobs and growing the community’s tax base are his goals over the next few years. He also pledged to continue to be available to the public.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or email@example.com.